Review: Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021)

Following years of campaigning it finally happened. Zack Snyder’s Justice League is out to watch now on Sky Cinema. 

For me this movie is a director’s cut, I know it’s much more than that but for the purposes of being accurate this is the directors cut and the 2017 version is the theatrical version. Both telling the same story in vastly different ways.

PLOT AND STORY 

An alien from a distant planet called Steppenwolf comes to Earth in search of three ancient devices called mother boxes and once united, will give him the power to destroy and conquer the whole planet. Determined to stop this from happening Batman must form an alliance of heroes to fight Steppenwolf. 

Comparing the two versions of Justice League the plot is exactly the same. Batman has to form the Justice League to save the world. The main difference being Zack Snyder’s version is three times as long and adds much more back story to Flash, Cyborg, Aquaman, Wonder Woman and Steppenwolf’s journey. In doing this we finally have a coherent movie with meaning and characters who actually have a reason for their actions. That was always the main thing that bugged me about the theatrical version, nobody had any real reason to fight. Especially Steppenwolf who appeared to be trying to conquer Earth just for the sheer hell of it. Thank god Zack Snyder knows how to tell a story and give people motivations, even if it does take four hours.

The plot to the movie is pretty basic by the fact it is simply good guys trying to stop bad guys. What I liked the most about the version is how I feel like I now know the Justice League. Characters like Flash and Cyborg have at least an extra 30 minutes of screen time dedicated to them and their past which for the audience makes the rest of the movie make more sense and now makes you feel for them and care about their actions. Steppenwold is another character who greatly benefits from some increased screen time as we learn what motivates him to succeed in his mission on Earth. In doing this we now have a villain you are invested in and understand the stakes at play.

As a self confessed DC nerd I found the inclusion of Darkseid and Dessad mouth watering. Wonder Woman does a great job explaining who he is but I do feel an audience less invested in DC characters than me will potentially miss the magnitude of their inclusion. If Justice League 2 and 3 were to happen then this would have been the perfect introduction because the audience will know what to expect when he returns. If this turns out to be the last movie in this Snyderverse then a great opportunity will have been missed. DC movies so badly need a Thanos level of villain and we finally have him at our fingertips but he might just slip away.

PRODUCTION AND DIRECTION

It’s amazing to see what a difference a little more time and different effects companies can have because this movie looked stunning compared to its very ugly looking predecessor. There is a lot more of the theatrical cut in this version than I thought there would be but it looks like a completely different movie. That awful fight scene with Superman at his monument was one of the worst looking CGI fights I can think of but in Zacks version we see the same fight but in a completely different colour tone and much better background and I couldn’t believe it was the same scene. This is a common theme throughout the movie as we see many of the same scenes that look so much sharper.

The theatrical version was accused of many things but most commonly was the belief DC were trying to make a Marvel movie. That to me was evident in the amount of cheesy jokes which felt incredibly out of place after we had movies like Man of Steel and Batman vs Superman. One of the best things Zack has done with his version is get rid of it all and this creates a much more consistent tone and gives me a Justice League I am happier with. This is why the inclusion of blood and swearing feels natural with the darker tone of the movie.

Tom Holkenborg AKA Junkie XL has created an amazing score with big, loud, empowering music which brings a tear to eye when the right beat hits you at the right moment. 

The theatrical version focused a little too much on a Russian family stuck near Steppenwolf’s base and served no real purpose to the movie other than try to add an innocent human element which the movie never really needed. I am glad to learn that was 100% Joss Weedon and none of this was included in the Snyder Cut. What this also highlighted to me in the Snyder Cut was how much better Steppenwolf’s base is constructed. It loses the dreadful looking bright coloured flowers and creates a menacing fortress which would prove a challenge for the Justice League to penetrate.

The final thing that Zack’s direction deserves a special mention about is the way he handles Superman. Almost everything Superman does in this version is different and better than the theatrical version. Very simple changes to the way he enters the battle with Steppenwolf or an extra 5 minute conversation with Martha Kent to convince us that Clark is back and finally we got to see his scene with Alfred that was teased in the original trailer but never made it to the theatrical version. These changes give us the Superman we got in Man of Steel who was a Superman you believe in and not the zombified version we got in the theatrical version.

There is a final nightmare scene which is absolutely incredible to watch but my only real criticism is that it was at the end and didn’t seem to fit with the rest of the movie and served no real purpose other than Zack wanted to do it for the fans.

CAST

The only character I haven’t really talked about is Ben Affleck’s Batman and that’s because he is possibly the only character to have hardly changed from the theatrical version. Ben Affleck is my Batman and in four movies now has proved why he encapsulates everything about the Dark Knight.

Steppenwolf is the character I feel has the biggest positive change. Everything about him is just better under the hands of Zack Snyder. Ciaran Hinds voice is given a deeper and more menacing tone. His costume is 100% better with a stunning looking silver armour which moves and shifts with Steppenwolf’s actions. 

Much like with Ben Affleck being my Batman one thing Zack Snyder did in my eyes was recruit the most definitive casting of these characters. Henry Cavill is my favourite Superman and I honestly couldn’t picture anyone else playing Wonder Woman now than Gal Gadot. Jason Momoa has created such a unique version of Aquaman who is far cooler than he probably deserves to be based on his comic book history. I wasn’t all that keen on Ezra Miller’s Flash in the theatrical version but seeing his story fleshed out more I am now sold on his goofy version of Barry Allen.

Last but by no means least is the character who appears to have been short changed the most in the theatrical version and that’s Ray Fisher’s Victor Stone AKA Cyborg. Victor Stone is the heart and soul of the Snyder Cut and witnessing how Fisher can command a screen really does make me wonder why Joss Weedon and Warner Brothers decided to cut so much of his story. His emotional journey from High School elite to becoming Cyborg is possibly the most engaging part of this whole movie.

A well rounded supporting cast with Jeremy Irons as Alfred who does get a few more lines and shares one very nice scene with Diana. Amy Adams as Lois Lane also gets some more screen time as she mourns the death of Clark and bonds with his mother Martha played by Diane Lane. Amber Heard’s Mera spends an extra couple of very important scenes with Aquaman as does Willem Dafoe’s Vulko. 

Further cast members include Connie Neilsen, J.K Simmons, Robin Wright, Kiersey Clemons, Jessie Eisenberg, Harry Lennox and Joe Manganiello.

Jared Leto does appear as the Joker as was revealed in the trailer in an emotionally charged exchange with Batman.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I thought this movie was brilliant and a vast improvement on the theatrical version. I don’t think the four hour run time will be a hit with people not invested in the movement to make this movie happen but for those of us who wanted this then it’s absolutely fine. I’m not going to say this movie is perfect because there are still a few plot points which don’t make sense to me and a couple of moments which felt out of character but it’s still very good. With more background to the characters we have a vastly more coherent story with believable motivations. This is a big movie in every aspect and should be watched on the biggest TV possible to fully embrace its visual wonder.

I watched this via Sky Cinema and received no incentive to review this movie. All images are owned by Warner Bros and HBO Max.

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